There are several companies that lay claim to being the originator of the “modern” pontoon boat. Without stepping on anyone’s bragging rights it seems that several companies who had manufacturing capabilities started building pontoon boats in a very small way around the same time.
Ambrose Weeres, a rural Minnesota farmer, is credited with making the first pontoon boat in the United Sates. It is said that in 1952, Mr. Weeres tied a wooden deck to aluminum cylinders and the idea of the modern pontoon boat was born. Weeres began making the pontoon boats himself and selling them through local dealers until his idea began to take off and he founded Weeres Industries. He named his first production pontoon boat “The Empress.” Ambrose Weeres was inducted into Minnesota Marina Hall of Fame and may have been the first to commercially manufacturer pontoon boats for sale.
People familiar with Kayot pontoon boats tell the story of the owner of this auto parts store wanting a pontoon boat for his family. After they fabricated their first pontoon boat, people on the family's lake saw them and wanted one. The Kay Auto Parts Company was forgotten and Kay-Yacht Pontoon was founded, later changing their name to Kayot Pontoons by the mid 1950’s. We suspect this may have been the case with many of the early pioneering pontoon boat manufacturers. Aqua Patio – Freeland Co., of Sturgis, MI was making galvanized steel pontoon boats in the early 1950’s and sold the company to the Godfrey Conveyor Company in the mid 1950’s. Godfrey Pontoons kept the Aqua Patio name and has expanded to become one of the leading manufacturers of pontoon boats in the industry. Harris Pontoon Boat Manufacturing of Fort Wayne, IN was a pioneering pontoon builder with the Harris FloteBote brand of pontoon boats. In the late 1960’s Harris rocked the pontoon boat industry by installing upholstered pontoon furniture and seats on their pontoon boats. Waco Manufacturing begin building aluminum pontoon boats in 1960 and is credited with two major innovations in the pontoon boat industry, the upper sundeck and the upholstered sundeck cushion that encloses the outboard engine and fuel compartments on a pontoon boat. Sylvan Pontoons of North Webster, IN was a pioneering pontoon boat builder as well. John Cripe was the founder of Sylvan pontoon boats and widely accepted as one of the pioneering pontoon designers. Sylvan was sold to the Shrock family and years later John Cripe founded JC Pontoon. Weere’s Pontoon Boats of St. Cloud, MN was another early pontoon boat manufacturer; their 1967 pontoon sales brochure proclaims the company’s 15th year which would have dated their first pontoon boats back to as early as 1952. Crest Pontoon Boats of Owosso, MI which was founded as Maurell Products by Maurice Schell in 1957, they have manufactured one of the broadest lines of pontoon boats in the industry and has done so for more than 50 years.
There are dozens of companies manufacturing pontoon boats today and there are bound to be others that started early. We will continue to try and build up the history of this great boating past time and welcome any information you may have concerning pontoon boating. Also, we are trying to build up a collection of old pontoon boat brochures. Please contact PontoonStuff® if you have any information you’d like to see added to this section.